Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sarah Brooks, 1856-1948
By Maura Page, Hood College
Sarah C. Brooks was born in Cuivre, Missouri on February 16, 1856, the daughter of Thomas and Zerilda Brooks. Her father was a farmer and a blacksmith and had real estate in 1860 valued at $800 and personal estate worth $320. She began school attending a private school, but later enrolled in a public school that required that she walk six miles each way.
Her 1948 obituary noted that she began teaching at a private school at the age of 16, and after saving money enrolled at Illinois State Normal School. She returned to teaching and at a conference of the National Education Association she met the superintendent of the Baltimore public schools, which led to her appointment as the "head of the Teachers Training School in Baltimore, Maryland from 1902-1910. Following her retirement in 1910, Sarah Brooks moved to Virginia to teach at the Normal School of Richmond, Virginia." City directories record her presence in Richmond in the years 1915-1922. Later she returned to teach at the State Teachers College in Towson, which is today Towson State University.
Sarah is mentioned among other speakers who traveled in 1910 to Annapolis from Baltimore to testify before the Maryland General Assembly on the rights of Maryland women to gain the power to vote. The event was recorded in the History of Woman Suffrage, Volume VI, Maryland, Part II. Sarah was listed among the speakers of the group without any fanfare or reference to her hometown or occupation:
"Six hundred women and men went on a special train to Annapolis, carrying a petition for the bill representing 173,000 names. The speakers were Dr. Howard Kelly of Johns Hopkins, president of the Men's League; Dr. Mary Sherwood of the medical department; Judge Moses, Mrs. Elliott, Mrs. Ida Husted Harper of New York, Miss Janet Richards of Washington, Misses Julie Rogers, Mary E. Lent, Ellen La Mott and Sarah Brookes. The advocates in the House were Robert H. Carr, who introduced the bill, H. Pairo, R.F. Beacham and Mr. Henderson. It received 67 noes and 24 ayes and did not come before the Senate. Three other woman suffrage bills were defeated this session.
The 1930 census recorded her as a 73-year old single boarder in Baltimore. apparently no longer teaching. Brooks moved back to Missouri in 1945, where she lived until her death in January 1948 at the age of 92. According to her obituary, her friends donated a portrait of Miss Sarah C. Brooks painted by Stanislav Rembski to the State Teachers College in Towson, which had "absorbed" the Teachers Training School in 1924.
Sarah C. Brooks never married and passed away in January 1948 in Missouri. She was a committed educator, who had a 50-year career as a teacher and educator, principally of women training to become teachers. For a brief period in 1910 she joined in the Maryland effort to secure the vote for women and spoke before legislative hearings in the state capital.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed., History of Woman Suffrage, Volume 6, 1900-1920.2), 263-64. [LINK]
Obituary for Sarah C. Brooks (Aged 92), The Baltimore Sun, (Baltimore, Maryland) Jan. 19, 1948, page 12.
City Directories: Baltimore, 1903-1911; Richmond, 1915-1922. Accessed on ancestry.com
Federal manuscript censuses: 1860, Cuivre, MO, household of Sarah Brooks; 1930, Baltimore, household including Sarah C. Brooks. Accessed on Ancestry.com.